Posted by: Martin | March 16, 2011

Wari bana?

Human Rights Watch

When you don’t think the situation in the Ivory Coast can get any worse, it nevertheless keeps getting worse. This Human Rights Watch report published yesterday, outlines what’s going on, sometimes in gruesome detail.  For those that can stomach it, it’s a very good read giving an overview of human rights abuses as well as  full details of several events of which I felt I only got fragmentary information from twitter and other media sources.

End point of bad news

So to stop bad news from exceeding expectations, it’s time for a total and utter worst case scenario that is still within the realistic range of outcomes.

I think such a scenario would be if Gbagbo doesn’t give up and manages to obtain enough funds on an ongoing basis to keep the fighting going for years in Abidjan and the southern half of the country.

That would mean that violence, mass killings and democide would continue in especially Gbagbo-controlled areas.  With such lasting insecurity it would be difficult to provide basic necessities to a 4 million city like Abidjan.

The temporary drop in economic activity and GDP we are seeing now, would be made permanent like what happened in Liberia and Somalia during the long wars there.

As it stands, if violence ends and Ouattara assumes power tomorrow or even in three months, I think businesses will rush back in and resume operations pretty quickly, and this post-electoral phase will just be a blip on the curve. The social fabric and physical infrastructure is still reasonably intact. If however, the violence keeps going for years, we have a problem.

Wari bana?

So do I think Gbagbo will manage to keep it going?   He certainly wants to try.

Back April 2010 I wrote that a good way to analyse and predict Gbagbo’s actions is to assume that he always takes the course of action that is most likely to allow him to stay in power regardless of other consequences.  That seems to be even more true today, and besides, I don’t know of a case where a dictator has voluntarily left power short of being forced to by their own army (Ben Ali, Mubarak) or seeing enemy forces set to inevitably capture their entire capital city (Mubutu, Hitler and many more).

So, can Gbagbo muster the funds and resources necessary to keep enough of army, security forces and militia loyal to him and fight for him over time?  I don’t think so.

After the African Union’s latest clear support for Ouattara, I think it starts looking like Gbagbo’s support and power base is eroding.  One key reason behind it is probably that Gbagbo is running out of money or “wari bana” as it’s called in dioula language.

Gbagbo spent a lot of funds on the election campaign, so the state coffers were pretty empty after the election. Then the unusually severe economic sanctions hit, reducing Gbagbo’s income. With the banking closures the Gbagbo regime has to collect tax largely in cash which opens up for mass corruption.  My guess is that only a fraction of taxes collected in cash ends up available to Gbagbo’s regime – as opposed to in bank accounts abroad belonging to members  of the Gbagbo regime (or even just as cash at their homes).

On top of that Reuters reported a while ago that the Gbagbo regime had asked Angola for financial support but been rejected. (can’t find the link right now)

In a telling episode at the end of February, Gbagbo’s spokesman Don Mello announced, that they had managed to pay 62% of public servants, making it sound like a success.

For a somewhat contrary point of view Radio Netherlands Worldwide has a piece today with a bit of talk about Gbagbo’s financial position.

UPDATE: Ivorian reggae singer Alpha Blondy’s hit song Wari Bana:

 

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